In today’s world it’s a hardy task navigating etiquette. The rules that once applied to social situations in the 1950s don’t always apply today. Some social expectations from then are unacceptable today.  We’ve grown, and that’s a good thing! With that in mind, I’m starting this series of observing etiquette from different decades in order to fully understand what place etiquette has in our lives today. My purpose here is to scour many etiquette sources to find practical guidelines for any vintage-loving modern person.

Today’s guidelines concern social graces, and come from Amy Vanderbilt’s 1952 “Complete Book of Etiquette.” 

How to Take a Punch

  1. Tighten your stomach muscles.

A body blow to the gut (solarplexis) can damage organs and swiftly kill.

Do not suck in your stomach.

Doing so increases the risk of internal injury.

2. When you see it coming, shift slightly so that the blow hits your side, but do not flinch or move away from the punch.

Moving away only gives the punch more momentum. Try to absorb the blow with your obliques: the set of muscles on your side that wraps around your ribs.

3. Develop your personalized version of the H- bomb in the basement while pursuer is at work. Or at his favorite bar.

Drop it on said puncher’s house.


  1. Freesia McKee

    Hi Dennis,

    This is a fascinating project. The context paragraph at the beginning provided useful information about what you’re doing.

    When I moved to Indiana last year, I started getting the local newspaper delivered to our house because it was so inexpensive and found that the advice column genre is alive and well. And, a lot of the questions people ask are about etiquette. Your project points out that etiquette is cultural, but also era-based.

    Anyway, the image you’ve included lends a ton of visual cues as to what era the piece resides in. “Don’t pounce on a new partner with obvious delight.” Wow! There is a lot going on there…

    The formal language you use in the how-to list is intriguing and fits the form. One thing I was curious about (and a potential area for expansion) is the particular context of this advice. Scorned lovers? Something else? I know one of them has a favorite bar, so they’re not children fighting in a schoolyard, but I wondered about adding a few context clues beyond that to root this list even further in the era and a specific scenario. Nice work!


  2. Meg Tuite

    Hi Dennis!
    This is a beauty! LOVE the image and the set-up for the etiquette on how to take a punch! They definitely don’t want to ruffle those tuxedos or their hair. haha! I laughed through this one! Great work! LOVE!

  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Hi Dennis! I love this. The advice column as Hermit Crab shell, the visuals of the Amy Vanderbilt, and the advice itself! Should I remember this if attacked? I could also see you playing a pun– another advice, with “punch” as a drink, leading into this advice (this is so wonderful, it’s the kind of trope that sends me into free associations– disregard when too far-fetched!). In any case, it’s a great piece, and a shell that can go in so many directions.

  4. Sara Comito

    Hi Dennis, I have to appreciate the exuberance of the statement “We’ve grown, and that’s a good thing!” juxtaposed with the one area of advice, addressing how to weather an attack of violence. The irony highlights how progress can be dubious even as it is celebrated. Curious about the title. Excited to see where you take this!

  5. Jonathan Cardew

    Great piece, Dennis. I love the brevity. Fantastic opening image. I’d like to see these with bullet points.


Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest